The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI) was formed in 1991 for the purpose of bringing instruction to the local planning and zoning officials who serve Pennsylvania’s more than 2,500 municipalities and counties. Interest in planning was growing at the time and the interest continues, but there was no education requirement for serving on these boards and few opportunities for them to learn.
To meet this need the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association and Penn State University Cooperative Extension, with the PA Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Municipal Training Division joined in an educational collaboration. (DCA left the group when it became the Department of Community and Economic Development.) They have since been replaced by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB).
As of November 2015, PMPEI has transitioned to an affiliate organization of PSAB. This transition provides for an organized succession plan, ensuring that the high standards of PMPEI materials and training will continue for many years going forward. The PMPEI board of directors and instructors will continue to guide, direct and ensure training and educational materials are timely, accurate and available to all Pennsylvania municipalities, boards and commissions.
The goal was to develop a uniform program of planning instruction for local officials incorporating the elements of a unified body of knowledge in a well-planned curriculum presented by experienced instructors with both technical planning knowledge and appropriate teaching skills.
To serve the large number of municipal and county government units spread over a considerable area, it was decided to present courses as close as possible to where the officials were located. Instructors would work in teams, and they would be trained to teach the courses. This remains the model for PMPEI.
There is still no education requirement for serving on planning commissions and boards, but the need is still great to provide these officials with the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Currently there are 10,000-12,000 citizens who serve on over 1,800 planning commissions, another 7,500 who are on zoning hearing boards and more than 1,200 are involved in the administration of zoning ordinances. Each year 15 to 25% of them are replaced with new people, so the demand is on-going.
PMPEI teaches 25-30 courses to 550-750 people annually. It is estimated that since its first course was presented in 1992 PMPEI has instructed about 12,000 planning and zoning officials.